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Dec 7, 2011

Parents Just Don't Understand

I’d love to hear Will Smith rap about raising kids in response to his teenage song twenty years ago. But let me just say, raising kids is not for the weak. My daughter is wonderful. She is talented, makes good grades, stays out of trouble, has reasonable social activities, can converse on an adult level, conducts herself in a strong moral fashion and is generally congenial. But wow – there are moments I still want to kill her.
Recently, she has been going through a forgetfulness phase, losing jackets or forgetting homework or leaving her phone at different places. It’s been the theme of the past few weeks and always an item that would seem “mission critical” for the context of what’s happening next. Worse, her attitude becomes one of indifference or expectation that her parents are servants to resolve her mistakes.
However, to demonstrate the dichotomy of this young teen and how soft-hearted she can be as well, I must note that in the midst of me writing this, she came into my office and asked if she could stay after basketball practice tomorrow to scrimmage and help coach the Special Olympics participants. So, it is difficult to complain about her attitude.
Nonetheless, much of success is gained through discipline. I don’t mean punishment; I mean discipline in the way of keeping oneself to a schedule or routine with a commitment and promise to oneself to do whatever is required to stick with it. This is a tough thing to practice for most adults, but that is also why it is important to establish it when the kids are still young. And I have failed to instill this well in my child.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share an idea we are trying here. I’ll keep everyone apprised of how it works. It may be a dismal failure, but I’m hoping it will be a radical break-thru. In reality, it will probably just be one more thing to try, but we’ll see.
We have listed out the expectations of my daughter, house-hold chores and general responsibilities. This is typically maintenance stuff, like keeping her room “non-atrocious” in appearance, cleaning the guest bathroom daily, and feeding the dog. I think most parents struggle to keep their kids doing such things. So, we have created “consequences” – which is entirely different from punishment, which would be used for defiant behavior or the deliberate breaking of house rules.
These “consequences” are designed to mimic life, where the impact of one’s mistake is perhaps more random. In my life, minor mistakes sometimes have huge consequences, and sometimes I have a huge blunder that I just get away with out of luck. So, I’m conducting a list of things, such as “lose phone privilege for a day” and “must do an extra chore” but have included “pay a dollar” and “nothing this time” on the list. When she fails to do her duties, we are doing to roll dice and randomly select the consequence.
We’ll see how this goes, but I’m hoping it will make her more alert and aware of responsibilities. If nothing else, it will teach her that sometimes life just isn’t fair – and that’s a lesson we could all stand to remember.


  1. I like it! I may try this with my boys!!


  2. Keep in mind, another part of learning responsibility has to do with making amends when you have done something wrong, in order to minimize bad consequences. That's where I see so many adults go wrong. They do something wrong (whether intentionally or unintentionally) and then do everything they can to cover it up. It is rare that you will find someone who will fess us and/or fix it, but when they do, real world consequences tend to be, but aren't always, mitigated. The "D&D approach" to consequences seems to substitute the lesson of the probabilities of the real world for pure randomness.